Memories of being a paperboy include strawberry-scented ink
In 1962, it wasn’t exactly good form to smell like a strawberry. At least that was the thought process of 13-year-old Don McClain at the time.
Hey, he had girls to FRnVLGHU. 0FClDLn fiJured smelling like a strawberry might hamper whatever chances a young man cruising around Ardsley on a bicycle had to impress the ladies.
Then there were his buddies. Surely they would give him the raspberries when they got a whiff of the strawberry on him. McClain shuttered to think of the teasing he might endure.
And it was all thanks to his paper route. Yep, the Glenside News was causing a good bit of consternation for the paperboy and his potential social activities.
Apparently, the newspaper was experimenting with scented ink in those days. McClain thinks it was around Valentine’s Day of 1962, and the weekly Glenside News had been printed with strawberryscented ink. It was so pungent, though, that the smell got into the canvas bags that the kids used in those days to throw over their shoulders or the handlebars of the bicycles to deliver the papers. And it wouldn’t go away.
“My hands smelled like strawberries, the bag smelled like strawberries,” said McClain. “When you’re riding around town, you’re going to bump into some of your buddies, or maybe even some girls that you know. And when you’re only 13 or 14, this is critical. I didn’t want to smell like a strawberry.”
McClain’s paper route included 50 or 60 deliveries, although he said LW wDVn’W D YHUy HIfiFLHnW route. Ardsley is basically a lot of straight streets and a lot of straight cross streets. The kids that delivered the daily Bulletin route would throw papers on Monroe Avenue, Maple Avenue or Cricket Avenue. But McClain’s Glenside News route was scattered all over Ardsley.
“It was really an exercise in ShyVLFDl fiWnHVV IRU D WHHnDJH ERy,” said McClain, who made between $5 and $8 a week, a decent amount of money for a teenager in 1962. “When it was all said and done, I was riding my bicycle around four miles, maybe more, to deliver all my papers.”
Given that extended amount of time traveling the neighborhood, 0FClDLn GLGn’W wDnW WR ULVN finGing himself in any potentially embarrassing situations. So he asked his mother to wash the strawberrysmelling canvas bag.
And then he asked her to wash it again. And again. And again.
“They were pretty tough canvas bags. They weren’t something you washed,” said McClain. “But it still smelled like strawberries, and at some point, my mom wouldn’t wash it anymore because she was afraid it would make our clothes smell like strawberries.”
That’s some pretty doggone strong-smelling ink right there.
McClain, an Abington grad but now a Doylestown resident, shared that delightful story with me at a recent Abington Educational Foundation strategic planning session at which we were both participants. Not only is it a wonderful story of a more innocent time in our lives, but another aspect interested me as well: With 37 years in the newsroom, I had never heard of scented ink being used in the printing of a newspaper.
So I went right to the main sources to get the skinny on the strawberry smell: Fred Behringer was the longtime executive editor of Montgomery Newspapers from 1957 until his retirement in 2001; and Bill Strasburg, who bought the Ambler Gazette in 1952, the Public Spirit in Hatboro/Horsham in 1954 and the Times Chronicle and Glenside News in 1959 and formed what eventually would be known as Montgomery Media, which he VRlG Ln 1989. BRWh FRnfiUPHG WhDW yes, the newspaper did experiment with scented ink in the early 1960s.
“The smell was noticeable and the reaction was overwhelmingly negative,” said Behringer, confiUPLnJ 0FClDLn’V UHFRllHFWLRn.
“Fred always has a nice way of putting it,” said Strasburg. “I bought the scented ink from an ink dealer in Philadelphia. It had been scented with strawberries. The more I think about it, the more I think it was for a strawberry festival.”
Strasburg said that advertisers were experimenting with direct marketing at the time, and the strawberry-scented ink was one of those experiments.
“People talked about how terrible it was, but everybody talked about it,” said Strasburg. “There were a lot of complaints. It wasn’t just the Glenside News, it was in all of the Montgomery Newspapers.”
Strasburg said the ink “experiment” was conducted off and on over the course of about a year. But it became a burden in the pressroom during printing and the newspapers dropped the scented-ink idea.
“,W wDV WRR GLIfiFulW WR PDnage and it didn’t go very well,” said Strasburg. “But the strawberry thing is something people remember. It turned out to be effective in the sense that they remembered it.”
That they did. It left such an impression on Don McClain that he shared his story with me 50 years later in the administration building at Abington School District. Mr. Strasburg’s advertisers certainly couldn’t have imagined getting a 50-year return on the initial investment in strawberry-scented ink. The fact that nobody at this juncture can remember what advertisers used WhH VPHlly LnN LV WhH Rnly fly Ln that inkwell.
“You’re not going to sit there in your favorite chair and read the local news with the smell of strawberries in your face,” said McClain, even though his version of the story – Valentine’s Day vs. strawberry festival – differs a little from Strasburg’s version.
“I like my story better,” said McClain. “It’s just a fun memory.”
Mike Morsch is executive editor of Montgomery Media and author of the book, “Dancing in My Underwear: The Soundtrack of My Life.” He can be reached by calling 215-542-0200, ext. 415 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column can also be found at www.montgomerynews.com.
Outta Leftfield Mike Morsch